In his only previous route race, the Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II) at Churchill Downs, 3-year-old Mr. Prankster was a thoroughly beaten last of 11. That race was in November, however, and on Saturday he proved just how far he has come.
“Yes, I was worried about the distance,” said winning trainer Mike Maker. “But last time (he ran a route distance) he came off a layoff and he had some issues in-between. And obviously the competition (in the graded race) was stiffer than it was today. So I thought it was worth a shot today because, one, I’m half-owner and I stable here, and two, he ran well over the Polytrack at Presque Isle so I thought I’d keep him here for the stakes and try (two turns) again.”
Mr. Prankster broke last from the far outside post but not by much, as the field of nine jumped out together. Sunday Mass set the first quarter in :23.65 while pressed by Tiz Tee Time and Phantom Fury, and it was Phantom Fury who set the half-mile mark in :46.62. Mr. Prankster settled inside in sixth, nearly seven lengths off the lead through a half, but moved outside to make his move on the final turn, easily took the lead a few strides before the eighth pole, and drew off at will.
Phantom Fury was second, 2 1/4 lengths better than Magical Season in third. The final time was 1:39.18.
“We all broke in one pack, and if I’m 12-wide around the turn, it’s not going to make me look any good,” said winning rider John McKee. "So I eased my horse back, let the speed go, and angled down to save some ground on the first turn. "Down the backside he was taking me wherever I wanted to go. Turning for home I asked him, and he was here. He gave me two or three gears at one time.
"I was shocked (he got the two turns so easily), but really his bloodline (It's No Joke-Cremedelacramer, by Avenue of Flags) shows he can get it.”
Completing the order of finish in the $50,000 WEBN were Frankie Is Rock, Tiz Tee Time, Sunday Mass, Hand I Was Dealt, Tigerdude, and Texas Josh. Antique Wedding scratched.
Mr. Prankster went off the 9-5 favorite and paid $5.80, $3.20, and $2.80. Phantom Fury paid $3.40 and $2.40. Magical Season, also trained by Maker, paid $3 to show.
Mr. Prankster was bred in Kentucky by Colby Fields, Greg Scherr, and Valorie Scherr. Maker shares ownership with Tom Conway. The colt now has three wins and two seconds in six career starts. The winner’s share of the $50,000 WEBN purse boosted his career earnings to $118,372.
The WEBN Stakes is the second of three local preps for the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (gr. III) on March 24. Mr. Prankster already won the first local prep, the Turfway Prevue, and Maker expects to bring him back for the third, the John Battaglia Memorial on March 3.